Vuelta a Espana

Yellow light for Vinokourov in Vuelta, red light for Rasmussen

There only thing certain about Alexander Vinokourov’s immediate future and whether or not he’ll race the Vuelta a España is that it is all far from certain. Despite some reports that Vinokourov has the go-ahead to start the Vuelta next weekend with Astana, nothing is settled yet for the returning Kazakh rider. According to Astana team spokesman Philippe Maertens, paperwork that would ease the way for Vinokourov’s return to the Astana fold is complete, but there’s still no final agreement between all the major players.

By Andrew Hood

Vinokourov won the 2006 Vuelta. This year he just wants to be able to start.

Vinokourov won the 2006 Vuelta. This year he just wants to be able to start.

Photo: Agence France Presse – file photo

There only thing certain about Alexander Vinokourov’s immediate future and whether or not he’ll race the Vuelta a España is that it is all far from certain.

Despite some reports that Vinokourov has the go-ahead to start the Vuelta next weekend with Astana, nothing is settled yet for the returning Kazakh rider.

According to Astana team spokesman Philippe Maertens, paperwork that would ease the way for Vinokourov’s return to the Astana fold is complete, but there’s still no final agreement between all the major players.

“For the moment, there is no agreement between Johan (Bruyneel) and Vinokourov,” Maertens told VeloNews. “He doesn’t have an agreement with the team, but the administrative things are all OK, in case they reach an agreement. Right now, there is no Vuelta for Vinokourov.”

Maertens would not reveal details of behind-the-scenes negotiations or the talking points, but only confirmed that Astana team manager Johan Bruyneel is speaking with Vinokourov and the Kazakh officials.

Vinokourov, 35, returned to competition earlier this month following his two-year racing ban for homologous blood doping. He raced for the Kazakh national federation team last week in France at the Tour de l’Ain and won an individual time trial.

If Vinokourov hopes to ride the Vuelta – which starts August 29 in Assen, Holland – he will need to be part of the Astana team.

So far, Vinokourov has been listed as an alternative for the nine-man squad, opening the door for his inclusion on the Vuelta squad if an agreement is hashed out.

Officials refused to reveal what is causing the log-jam, but Bruyneel and the Kazakhs have been wrangling for months over money, the return of Vinokourov and the future control of the team.

Astana is funded and controlled by the Kazakh cycling federation, which contracted Bruyneel to run the team in 2008 as part of a three-year agreement.

Bruyneel is expected to leave Astana to help form RadioShack in 2010, but it appears there are some unresolved issues between the Kazakhs and the Belgian director.

Too late for Rasmussen
While there is still some wiggle room for Vinokourov, that doesn’t appear to be the case for Michael Rasmussen.

Cleared to race in July following a two-year ban issued by the Monaco cycling federation, the Danish climber was hoping to find a team in time to race the 2009 Vuelta.

Rasmussen said he’s received an e-mail from Vuelta organizer, UniPublic, notifying him that he cannot participate in the Vuelta because he could not finalize an agreement with a team 20 days before the start of the race and is not part of the preliminary start list.

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